Second seeded Notre Dame (29-2, 15-1 ACC) defeated third seeded Florida State (25-6, 12-4 ACC) 90-80 today in the semifinals of the ACC tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum.
The Irish started the game strong with an 8-2 run that was capped by a Kathryn Westbeld layup. Shakayla Thomas responded for the Noles with seven straight points to give FSU a 9-8 lead. From there ND went on a 10-0 run that was finally ended by an AJ Alix three-ball. The two teams traded baskets and FSU played solid defense to force Notre Dame into a prayer to end the quarter. Unfortunately for the Seminoles the 30 foot prayer from Marina Mabrey was answered and ND took a 23-15 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter started with both teams going back and forth in the scoring column. With about three and a half minutes left in the half the Seminoles made a move. FSU went on an 8-0 run that was sparked by an AJ Alix triple. The Noles cut the lead to 38-37. Mabrey answered with a layup and then FSU went on a 6-0 run. After two Jessica Shepard free throws the Noles went into the lockerroom up 43-42.
AJ Alix started the half for FSU with a triple. After that the two teams mostly traded baskets until FSU went on an 8-0 run that was capped by a Nausia Woolfolk layup. The Seminoles found themselves with a 56-48 lead with four and a half minutes left in the third. ND stormed back with a 7-0 run that was finally stopped by a Woolfolk layup. ND then made four straight free throws before Nicole Ekhomu answered with a jumper. Mabrey responded with another prayer to beat the clock and give ND a 62-60 lead going into the final quarter.
In the fourth the two teams traded baskets until Notre Dame went on an 8-0 run to take a 75-64 lead. From there the Noles couldn’t cut the lead closer than seven as ND went on to get a 90-80 victory.
FSU was led by Shakayla Thomas with 24 points (10-22 FG) and seven rebounds. Nicole Ekhomu had 18 points, six boards and five assists. Imani Wright chipped in 13 points.
One of the biggest keys to this game was the rebounding disparity. FSU lost the rebounding battle 37-28. The Noles have a tough time winning when they lose the rebounding battle against anyone and that will especially be true against a team that shoots as well as the Irish.
Notre Dame went 22-26 from the free throw line while FSU was 6-7 - make of that what you will.
FSU played well enough to win this game and would have won against 98% of the teams in the nation. Unfortunately Notre Dame is elite and was able to pull out the victory.
It’s never fun to lose but this game will not significantly hurt FSU’s tournament standing. The Seminoles will be a three seed (fourth at worst) and will host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.